Home > The Vampire Shrink

The Vampire Shrink
Author: Lynda Hilburn

Chapter One

My involvement with vampires began innocently enough. Long before the blood hit the fan, so to speak.

Like most psychologists, I'd been trained to view the world through a diagnostic lens, hearing my clients' stories through my metaphorical ears, searching out the deeper meanings. Thankfully, my tendency to reduce each person to a prevailing neurosis was tempered by my irreverent, dark sense of humor, which kept me from taking myself and the world too seriously.

While I never was as bad as some of my colleagues about believing only in what I could prove—if you couldn't quan­tify it, it wasn't there—I had seen enough bizarre stuff in my private psychotherapy practice over the years to make me more skeptical than I was comfortable admitting.

My private practice had its share of UFO abductees, de­monic possessions, satanic cult survivors, religious cultists, attached entities—all the newest selections on the menu of emo­tional and mental pain. Plus, all the "regular" therapy issues.

So, when I opened the door separating my reception area from my office that fateful Friday to welcome my new client, I was only momentarily surprised. Waiting for me was a young woman wearing a long, black dress covered by a dark purple velvet cape. Rings adorned all ten fingers, and a long snake bracelet, with sparkling ruby eyes, wound its way up her arm from wrist to elbow. She had waist-length, light brown hair with multi-colored streaks, and she wore white theatrical makeup, dark red lipstick, and remarkably lifelike, high-quality, removable fangs.

My mind began to pick out the various category boxes I could put her into. Hmmm, Goth? Vampire wannabe? Act­ing-out teenager?

"Please come in and have a seat." I gave my warmest therapy smile and waved my hand in the general direction of the couch and chairs in the center of my office. "I'm Dr. Knight. Please call me Kismet."

That's quite an outfit. Spectacular, really. This sweet, young thing has a flair for the dramatic. What's that delicious fragrance? Sandalwood?

She walked in silently, handed me the packet of paper­work she'd filled out in the waiting room, and sat down in the chair farthest from where I was standing. Scanning the in­formation, I noticed she'd listed her name as Midnight.

"Midnight? That's a lovely name. Is there a last name?"

"No. I have no need of anything from my human past," she said, with exaggerated seriousness.

Okay. Let's not assume the obvious. I chose a chair across from her and picked up my note pad and pen. "Tell me how I can help you."

"I'm only here because my family made me come. They can't accept my choices and they're hoping you'll talk me out of wanting to be a vampire. They want you to fix me." Her voice separated each angry word like little staccato notes.

She gave me the once-over I'd come to recognize from my younger clients: the smirking scan that evaluated my tai­lored, light blue suit and sensible, black heels and found them hopelessly conventional. Then, inevitably, her eyes moved to my hair, which was very long, curly, and often had a mind of its own. The dissonance between my conservative suit and unintentional rock-star hair disrupted the inner picture she was constructing of me. I always enjoy the flash of confusion that washes over their faces at that point. My inner trickster is never far away.

She hiked her dress up until the hem rested on her knees and crossed her legs dramatically. "You're not what I expected."

I smiled. "What did you expect?"

"Someone old, with her hair in a bun and no makeup. You're not that much older than me. And you're pretty. You remind me of that singer my mother listens to all the time. Sarah Brightman. The one with the long, dark hair and blue eyes."

"Thank you. I enjoy her, too. Are you comfortable with someone who isn't old and who doesn't have her hair in a bun?"

She frowned. "I guess so."

I could see that her need to connect was struggling with her automatic protective defenses, and the jury was out about which one would continue the session.

"Well, tell me about your desire to be a vampire. How long have you wanted to be one?"

She tilted her head, pursed her lips and sat silently for a few seconds. Quick flashes of emotion danced across her face as fear, disappointment, and resentment gave way to hope.

"Ever since I met Devereux—or Dev, as we call him— about a year ago/' she said, dreamily.

Ah, connection won. Maybe she'll let me in.

"Why would meeting Dev make you want to be a vampire?"

''Well, duh, because he is one." She rolled her choco­late-brown eyes, and made that "tsk" sound with her tongue against her teeth.

I kept the warm smile on my face, and ignored the teen­age angst. "Can you tell me about Dev?"

She hesitated, staring down at the floor, using the tip of her tongue to play with the fake fangs. "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about him. He wouldn't want me to. He says it's better if no one believes vampires really exist."

Oh, I see. Her sharp little fangs fit perfectly over her own canines, with an almost-invisible band holding them—similar to braces. How clever.

"Do you believe that vampires really exist?" I tried not to sound as if there was only one right answer to the question.

"Oh, yes. You wouldn't believe what I've seen. Denver has tons of vampires," she enthused.

"Really? Midnight, I want you to know that anything we talk about in here is completely confidential. You can feel free to tell me anything you want and it will go no further. I'd really like to hear about all these vampires."

Vampires. Well, that certainly is a change of pace from aliens and demon possessions.

She raised an eyebrow. "How do I know you won't tell my parents?"

"Unless you're going to hurt yourself or someone else, I will never tell anyone anything that we discuss," I explained, giving her my ethically required disclaimer. She paused a moment, studying me. "Well, I guess it's okay then, since you can't tell anybody."

She uncrossed her legs and shifted forward in the chair. "So, what do you want to know?"

"Why don't you just start at the beginning?"

She nodded. "I met the vampires right after I graduated from high school last year. My friends all went down to that cool club that used to be a huge, old church in the funky sec­tion of downtown—it's called The Crypt. We've got the best fake IDs so we just slide right in. But it's weird. Even though we've got the perfect IDs and they let us in, they never let us buy alcohol. If we go up to the bar, the bartender just laughs at us. Pisses me off. What's up with that?"

I scribbled notes on my pad. It was a delicate dance to get the words on paper without letting my clients feel aban­doned by my split attention. I always wound up with a cramp in my hand after each session from all the fast writing.

Interesting that the club wouldn't sell drinks to her. Maybe they'd gotten in trouble for serving minors before?

She worried her bottom lip with the tip of one of her fangs, as if it gave her time to think before speaking again.

"Anyway, there are several levels to the club and one of them, down in the basement—we call it the dungeon— is private. There were curtains over the doorway, but my friend, Emerald and I, we waited 'til the guy who guarded the door left for a minute, and then we sneaked down and peeked in through the crack and saw all these amazing peo­ple," she reported, with an expression of awe on her face from the memory.

"Amazing people?"

"Yeah, two different kinds, really. A whole bunch of kids around my age, maybe a few years older, all dressed up sorta Goth, but not really, wearing white paint on their faces and red on their lips. Then there were the other ones. So beauti­ful. They were wearing regular stuff like leather, and didn't have the white makeup on, but they were totally awesome. They were a little older, maybe in their 20s or 30s, and they all had gorgeous, long hair . . ."

She stared off for a moment, her mouth hanging loosely open, having gotten lost in the vision.

"So, they were totally awesome?"

Nodding her head gently, she said, "Totally."

"And then what happened?"

"We were just standing there, scoping out the room, and a hand came through the curtains, opened them, and the hot­test guy I've ever seen asked if we wanted to come in. Emerald didn't want to go in—she's afraid of everything—but I really wanted to check out all those people, so I said yes. The hot guy reached out, took my hand and actually kissed the back of it and said his name was Devereux. I thought I was going to pass out just from looking at him. There was something about his eyes." She paused and glanced over at me, trying to gauge my reaction before she shared any more details.

I felt the muscles in my neck and back tighten, which hap­pened sometimes when I worked too hard at holding in all the opinions that wanted to tumble out of my mouth. Often, having to remain silent was the hardest part of my job.

She met a strange man in a bar. A man dressed in leather, who in­vited her into a private room. What's wrong with this picture?

I smiled. "And then?"

"Then he sorta led me inside and Emerald followed us. There must have been fifty people in that room and they were all incredible. Dev walked us over to a table, and he was so polite. He pulled out the chairs for us, like in the old movies, and asked if we wanted anything to drink. We both ordered beers—we had to try—but he brought us Cokes, and we just sat there, staring at him. He wasn't drinking any­thing and I asked why not, and he said he'd already had his fill for the night, and he just kept smiling and giving us those psychedelic eyes. I didn't know what he meant back then, but I do now."

"What do you mean?"

"Are you sure you won't tell this to anyone? I don't want to piss Dev off," she said, reading my face for signs of deception.

"I promise," I assured her.

She nodded. I'd evidently passed the test.

"Well, he drinks blood, ya know? That's what vampires do. So, when he said he was full, he meant he had already 'eaten' for the night," she explained, her voice light and casual, as if we were talking about the weather.

Yuck. He drinks blood. Can yon say mental illness?

"Do you drink blood?"

That, obviously, was a loaded question, because Mid­night started scraping her lower lip against her upper teeth. She twisted the edge of her cape nervously in her hands and stared down into her lap.

"Midnight? Are you all right?"

Squirming in the chair, she said, "Yeah. It just feels creepy to be talking about this."

"Do you mean because of what your family would think?"

She hesitated. "No, because of what Dev would do if he found out," she said, softly. "We're not allowed to drink blood."

Thank heavens for that

"We'll come back to the blood in a minute. What's your relationship with Dev?' I was becoming more and more sus­picious of this seemingly charismatic character.

Catching the drift of my concern, Midnight shook her head. "He's just a friend. All the girls are after him, but he said we're too young and that he's into older women. We all hit on him but he never goes out with any of us. He's in charge—the boss, I guess."

The vampire Bruce Springsteen? "The boss of what?"

"The vampires. And the apprentices."

"The apprentices?" I had a sudden vision of several vam­pire wannabes sitting around a conference table in New York with Donald Trump. A vampire Donald Trump. I fought to keep the amusement from creeping onto my face. My sense of humor is such a challenge.

"That's what we call ourselves."

"Let's go back to the drinking blood part. You seemed to have a strong reaction when I asked you about that. Why?"

She lowered her eyes and started chewing her bottom lip again. "Dev lets us hang around with him and the other vampires, but he won't let anyone take blood from us and he won't let us drink blood, either. He said that only real vam­pires can use blood the way it was meant to be used. Since we're officially still human, we could get diseases that vam­pires can't get. He has lots of rules about what we can and can't do if we want to be with them."

Okay, so maybe the guy isn't totally whacked If he keeps them from the blood thing.

"So, what is it you don't want him to know?"

Long pause.

I waited silently and watched waves of conflicting emo­tions flow across her face as she decided what, if anything, she was going to tell me.

"There's this one guy, Eric, who wants to be a vampire real bad. Dev told him that he wasn't ready, that he needed to go out and learn about life before becoming the undead, but Eric doesn't listen. He set up all these rituals at his apart­ment, where the apprentices drink each other's blood. He gave us all these neat little necklaces with tiny knives on them, so we can make little cuts in each other's necks and drink," she said, her voice breathy. "It would be really bad if Dev found out because he'd be totally angry, and I don't want to do anything to make Dev mad at me."

My eyebrows crawled up toward my hairline.

The apprentices drink each other's blood?

Holy shit.

I hoped she was simply acting out and all this blood stuff was imaginary. I needed to find a non-threatening way to convince her the entire vampire thing was a fantasy.

"Are you afraid of Dev?"

"No. Not the way you mean."

"But, despite Dev's disapproval you go to the rituals at Eric's apartment?"

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